I DID NOT LOOK FOR SIGNS

It is the 26th of December today and we are only moving towards the end of the year – so no I was not looking for signs of spring, it’s a little too early and as well as that I am trying to rein my energy in. Every year about the beginning of January my energy peeks and, like a run-a-way train, it is hard to hold it! So no I was not looking for signs of new growth but nevertheless I found fresh young plants growing all over the place. It was a mild and sunny day, beautiful weather for a walk. I woke up feeling full of the joys of life and found that the birds outside had similar thoughts, the sounds of the sparrows, the starlings and the crows was overpowering for some time during the hours of brightness. So here I was trying to experience the darkness of midwinter in order to get into the fullness of my energy once the new year would start and get going, but similar to what nature seems to be doing lately my internal clock seems to be a little mixed up. Hence I forced myself not to look for signs, signs of new growth, signs of an early spring.

This is such a typical view of West Cork, old trees and meadows ~ beautiful!
Looking towards the hills and part of the town of Skibbereen, so nice to walk here.

I have not written or produced many blog posts during the past year, something that I have missed doing. I know that it is partly due to a changing pattern, first with the lockdowns, and then with being out of the habit. With practically staying inside the home, garden, our little town and just the very immediate surroundings. I have to use a lot of imagination to be inspired to keep writing. During the year I started researching more of the local history and joined the historical society. We explored one village recently which I found very interesting. I hope to continue with my research of local history and of reading the old maps of the area. And writing about what I find or learn.

Wishing all my friends, my family, all my dear followers here on WordPress a really wonderful 2022, filled with good health and happiness.

And thank you all for your great support for my blog.

WISHING PEACE AND JOY TO HUMANKIND

To all my friends and followers all over the world at this time of the year, whether you celebrate Christmas or not I would like to wish you a peaceful, and joyful time, a time filled with love and the warmth of human company. As we move to brighter days, may all your wishes come true and may you be blessed.

My daily ritual and a little story

There is something very satisfying and grounding about a task that repeats itself on a daily basis, especially during the cold and damp winter months, for me it is getting a supply of fire-wood from the garden shed.  Though it might seem a very menial chore, it is no chore at all, on the contrary I am finding it and made it into a daily ritual.

My sleeveless coat, my hat and my wellingtons are ready at the backdoor, and while I trail through our at the moment water saturated garden, I check on our winter vegetables and on the fine young plants some being herbs but also next summer’s wild flowers. This is always a pleasure and my curiosity is aroused as to anything new or changed.

 In these testing days of the last 18 months it is a solace to find something that both calms one down and also excites the senses, we have to make do with whatever is at hand. And for me collecting my fire-wood from the garden shed is one such activity. I love the feel of the wood, I enjoy the patterns of the different type of bark, the musty smell, and the visible rings where the pieces were cut.

Cleaning out the ashes and lighting the stove is part of the ritual. As I scope the ashes carefully into a bag I make sure that there are no sparks left alive and shining bright red – sometimes this happens.  Putting the light to the kindle is always a nice feeling, especially when I light the fire while dusk is falling outside and I know that soon the room will be illuminated by the dancing flames giving off a beautiful glow and making us feel warm. Fire is one of the four classical elements in Greek philosophy. The combination of wood and fire literally soothes the mind and feeds the soul.

A nice little story that I would like to share is that a few days ago along with the wood, as for once I had just brought the bag inside and emptied it out in the basket, a tiny little shrew appeared in our living room. It was so delicate and beautiful, I caught it in my hands and it felt so soft. I went and put it back into the garden-shed hoping that it will live.

the little shrew

A nice warm space where I spend winter evenings with Ian

I hope that you are all well my dear friends and followers. Wishing cosy and warm evenings and days to you all.

MORNING WALK AT LOCH INE

The light at the forested area around Loch Ine was subdued and the sun was missing from this lovely scene but that did not take away from the beauty of our walk. Across the lake we saw the early morning swimmers, a group of women who swim there right through the winter. I did not touch up my photos, the colour of the water here in this photo is really how we saw it, how it was. And it was beautiful and special, I think that it was a trick of the light.

My daughter Tjorven had invited me to go on one of her morning walks and I am so glad that I accepted, we had some great mother – daughter chats, lightly as we are both wanting to use time in nature cheerfully during this frustrating time of covid.

Bare gnarled branches, looking like some rheumatic old creatures, line the lovely country lane.

The lake, which by the way is a salt water lake, narrows into a creek just along here and the water was like a mirror just then.

We saw catkins growing on the hazel tree, some different species of ferns, many of them, fungi and one lone snowberry.

Ebony the collie came with us and was off the lead for a little while, a very obedient young dog she is.

Our surroundings are so beautiful, it is good to enjoy them as much as we can.

β€œTake a quiet walk with mother nature. It will nurture your mind, body, and soul.” A.D.Williams

THE SEASON CONTINUES

While we are well into November we are still experiencing mild, dry, and even windless weather which is a little unusual for West Cork at this time. What I observe in my garden is young growth all around, the garden is bursting with life! It promises to be an abundance of wild plants next spring and summer. I see strong young plants of foxgloves and borage, sturdy young nettles, feverfew, and tansy plants, mullein and forget-me-nots, comfrey, evening primrose and lemon balm, lemon verbena too. And fabulous displays of herb robin! The variety of green shades is wonderful and the vibrant energy coming from all this young life is super! I’m not worried that these plants will die during the winter unless we have an extra cold one, as this growth happens every autumn and you can see what you have in store for the following season. I might have to thin out some of the foxgloves even as there are so many of them coming up. I did not sow any of these plants, they self-seed, they get on with their own lives and I let them be. Such a pleasure to see them grow.

Flowers are still brightening some spaces in the garden which is important for any pollinators that are still around. We saw bumblebees well into October this year, it was so mild and there was very little rain and wind. This summer, late summer I should say as they did not arrive until August… there were more butterflies than I normally see in the garden. In the beginning I only saw the whites, but then it was mostly the tortoise but also some admirals and peacock butterflies. I will be making a better record next season after I recently read a book on butterfly conservation, I will also leave some branches at the back of the garden which I was planning to clear. Nature gives us less work if we start to understand it properly!

Some inside snaps, as the days draw in our attention also goes inside the house a little more. I am lining some of the curtains with thermal lining. Ian is working on his project, while I am enjoying my study very much too, it is cosy and we both enjoy each other’s company and are excited about our separate projects.

We have started to feed our wild birds again too, we are still waiting for the chaffinches to arrive. Last winter we had one or two with the dreaded disease trichomoniasis, it was sad to see this. We are really looking forward to their return soon, some of them are migrants, some are home-birds. Apart from a whole host of wild birds we have three collared doves that feed everyday in our garden.

Well, this is more or less what is going on during this first part of November. I wish you all a good autumn, enjoy and hope you are well wherever you are.

AS I LOOK OUT MY WINDOW

This morning over breakfast my attention was drawn towards the hills and I noticed a change in their colours. This lead to a pleasant conversation over our coffee, a positive change from our usual topic of… what’s going on in the world… so we were discussing what makes these hills change colour in the fall. It is a well known phenomena in these parts. I first remember seeing this in the landscape around the village of Glengarriff, a seaside village lying a bit more to the south of here on the Beara peninsula, it is almost surrounded by quite high hills, Sugar Loaf being the highest at 501 metres, and I remember, while I spend time there, that the hills took on a beautiful brown in the fall. Not only that but the lower lying parts would show a most beautiful beige, almost blond shade. And why that was is easy to explain as it is of course due to the foliage of plants growing on the slopes and higher up changing their colours.

The view through the window from our breakfast table
A closer look at the colours (as good as my camera could get it)

The colour palette of browns is very attractive, browns like sienna, russet, or burnt umber are surely seen in this autumn landscape, and during the winter the shades might be darker, like deep coffee brown which is a rich, dark shade. These ferns (Pteridium aquilinum) but called bracken around here, are a very wide spread fern in Ireland, they grow all over the hills and tree-lined roadsides, they even came growing in our garden. I think that it is the damp weather that makes them thrive so well. They are beautiful especially when their leaves unfurl, or like this in the autumn season.

Another close up towards the hill that separates the town of Skibbereen from the Atlantic ocean

In this photo the grasses, which have the lighter colour, can be seen higher up on the hill. These grasses of which I do not have a photo at present, are very beautiful and growing along the road at the slopes of Priest Leap mountain also in Glengarriff, they give the best show of all our surroundings when it comes to colour. I am trying to think what the best way is of describing their shade, it is between straw, cream and beige, you could almost call it blond! It is very bright and light and gives the landscape a wonderful glow.

Yes, that is how I remember seeing them, a wonderful glow that is very easy on the eye.

OCTOBER IN THE GARDEN

October has always been one of my favourite months in the year, the light is mellow and the colours are so beautiful. This year the Rudbeckias have done very well and are still flowering strongly. I will certainly grow those again for next season. The colours are just fantastic and every time I go into the garden I feast my eyes on them.

I grew some pumpkins for the first time, I grew them from seeds that came out of Halloween pumpkins that I bought in the shop. I hope that these are edible but just for sheer autumn feel they are a joy to behold. I love seeing them grow and become bigger and bigger (some of them) πŸ™‚

These blue flowers (Salvia) have been flowering since spring time, it was the first time that I sowed them, they are down for re-sowing for next season as well, definitely.

This morning
An African marigold of some sort, they grow tall, first time growing these also from seed.
This was during September when the first signs of autumn started to show.
A few minutes away from our house is this wonderful view, partly over the town below in the valley and also toward the hills of Dunmanway, and on some days further mountains can be seen. This view does a lot for me, it gives me a sense of place, a sense of where I live in the greater geographical sense.

It has been a while since I visited my blog (or any other blog) and did some blogging, a change in laptop and photo editing apps has slowed me down a bit, but hopefully I am going to be on track again further on in winter. I am hoping that all my old friends and followers, together with all my new ones will keep enjoying my blogs ~ as I do yours.

Stay well, happy and blessed everyone.

SURPRISES IN A LATE SUMMER GARDEN

Not having worked in the garden for over a week, I am being surprised and delighted with all sorts of late summer growth. Our pumpkins (if indeed they are pumpkins) have really come on well, apart from having the most beautiful flowers, they have a subtle scent, and then there are the actual pumpkins that keep appearing among the foliage and surprise me with their fast growth, spreading over paths and over our bit of lawn, they are a joy to behold and I am thinking… pumpkin soup! In Gozo, while we were there, I used to make it often. The shops there are full of pumpkins during the winter and they sell these in slices so that you can buy a fresh supply everyday, it makes the most delicious soup.

The flowers are almost golden, such brightness cheering up an overgrown and sometimes tired late summer garden.

Pumpkins surprising me everywhere between the foliage, and many more in the earliest stage of development. If the weather stays kind then we should have a good harvest. Last year I saved seeds from a pumpkin that I used in cooking and these plants are the result. They actually don’t look to me like the orange pumpkins that I know but we’ll see what they turn into. It’s an experiment. The little yellow one came up as Lemon summer squash on Google.

A willow herb (epilobium hirsutum) that came growing beside the patio has almost totally covered the path down to the rest of the garden, but this wild plant has been so beautiful all summer and it has attracted so many insects. The large daisies were a gift from a kind neighbour, these will be lovely in the border next summer, they grow well here and multiply fast. The oregano I grew in an old bottomless bucket and it’s given us much joy all summer. A lone rudbeckia flower has a beautiful dark pink colour, and a tiny little bumblebee is taking nectar from a marigold.

Above are the variegated oregano. Some marigolds, one of our wild purple marsh woundwort (Stachys palustris) and the wild scented roses have finally flowered and show some lovely red rosehips now. The gladiola is flowering for the first time and that was another nice surprise for me. The mallow I had planted this past springtime and it’s nice to see how this has spread and flowered all summer.

A little word about our variegated oregano (origanum vulgare) plant. I planted it about five years ago, it flowers during august and it attracts an enormous amount of insects, from bees to hoverflies, a variety of bumblebees, butterflies, ladybirds, drone flies, and many more lovely creatures. Oregano stays green all winter long although it dies down a good bit, the climate here is mild in the winter (so far so good) and that is why the plant survives so easily. Until I looked it up I never realised that oregano is a plant from the Mint family. Looking at it closely I can see it alright. It is a culinary herb but I don’t use it quite enough, I usually leave it to the insects.

Another nice surprise is that several young plants are now appearing by themselves, from experience I know that they will survive the winter and will flower beautifully next spring and summer. So far I have come across borage, foxgloves, comfrey, and feverfew, too many of them to leave them all grow, all of them self-seeded. Last year I had several evening primrose plants, but this summer they did not show up. My kale plants that I grew last winter is also self-sowing and some young plants appearing here and there. Last month I have planted some autumn leeks and they are doing well. Our potatoes were a disaster so hopefully next year better. In the next few weeks I will plant some more winter vegetables when I get to the market to purchase the plants.

Plenty to think about and to plan, the garden, as ever giving us much pleasure and also quite a bit of work, but that is good for me.

DRISHANE HOUSE AND GARDENS

On this peaceful Saturday morning I am finally sitting down to do some more blogging and I am checking out some of the exotic plants and shrubs that we came across during our visit to the Drishane Gardens. We also visited the house and the museum, where a remarkable woman spent most of her life in the late 19th and early 20th century: Edith Somerville, the great granddaughter of Thomas Somerville. She was a writer and an artist, wrote several works together with her cousin Violet Martin, among their works the one considered the best is The Real Charlotte a book that I am not familiar with but that I have now requested from the library as I have become interested in what those women had to say, even while they said it through the medium of fiction. I loved visiting her studio, now a small museum where some of her correspondence, drawings and photographs are displayed, giving a real impression of Edith’s life. She was a feminist and familiar with Emmeline Pankhurst and her activism, though far removed from all the action itself here in West Cork, it inspired Edith’s thoughts. I want to explore this more for myself, I find reading about her spirited artistic life here in rural Ireland fascinating and in a way very inspiring. Living here for many years now I have never made myself familiar with Edith Somerville, all I ever did was watching a televised version of The Irish R.M. which was written by Edith and her cousin Violet.

The gardens are particularly beautiful and lush, I was there with my daughter Tjorven and my five grandchildren, all of whom love nature, the children loved exploring these gardens. For us adults there were some exotic shrubs and trees to enjoy, some of which I took photos of and looked up some information about them. The above beautiful and fragrant white flower is the Eucryphia Lucida also called ‘Leatherwood’, an Australian native plant it flourishes here very well and bees love.

Walking through the lovely foliage the paths wound down towards the orchard and towards this view of the Castlehaven Bay.
This is the Clerodendrum trichotomum, also called the Peanut butter tree, the leaves release a Peanut butter odour when crushed. It is native to China and Japan. I could get a subtle scent from the flowers. The fruits, which turn a bright blue in autumn, contain the pigment called Trichotomine. I would love to see the berries when they turn colour, they would be a splendid sight I think.
Here is the ancient Macrocapa cypress which you can see has a huge girth, one of the great ancients, much enjoyed by the children, was a swing on one of its large branches
View towards Horse Island, on which there is a tower that was used to guide the ships belonging to Thomas Somerville returning from foreign journeys.
The view out of the window of a small stone built hut we came across in the gardens in which, according to the information leaflet about the place, one of the ancestors, Thomas Somerville, liked to watch his ships returning from their voyages, a great vantage point. My grandchildren were delighted to explore this hut and we all spent some time inside discussing what it would have been used for (that was before any of us had read the leaflet)

We all enjoyed this visit very much indeed, it has made me so some research and I will enjoy continuing with reading up more about Edith Somerville and her life and times.

I hope that you enjoyed our wander around this amazing and inspiring place, probably one of the most memorable visits of summer 2021. I will be curious to read stories of your summers too my dear readers.

Thank you to my dear sister Josephine. She has spent her life editing literary magazines, and she is now my editor, most of her work with me exists in correcting my use, or not use, of commas, and I am entirely grateful to her for doing that.